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Double Indemnity
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Billy Wilder
Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff
Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson
Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes
Porter Hall as Mr. Jackson
Jean Heather as Lola Dietrichson
Tom Powers as Mr. Dietrichson
Byron Barr as Nino Zachetti
Richard Gaines as Edward S. Norton, Jr.
Fortunio Bonanova as Sam Garlopis
John Philliber as Joe Peters
George Anderson as Warden at Execution (scenes deleted)
Al Bridge as Execution Chamber Guard (scenes deleted)
Edward Hearn as Warden's Secretary (scenes deleted)
Boyd Irwin as First Doctor at Execution (scenes deleted)
George Melford as Second Doctor at Execution (scenes deleted)
William O'Leary as Chaplain at Execution (scenes deleted)
Storyline: In 1938, Walter Neff, an experienced salesman of the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co., meets the seductive wife of one of his clients, Phyllis Dietrichson, and they have an affair. Phyllis proposes to kill her husband to receive the proceeds of an accident insurance policy and Walter devises a scheme to receive twice the amount based on a double indemnity clause. When Mr. Dietrichson is found dead on a train-track, the police accept the determination of accidental death. However, the insurance analyst and Walter's best friend Barton Keyes does not buy the story and suspects that Phyllis has murdered her husband with the help of another man.
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Classic tale of double cross
Classic tale of double-cross and scheming is done to a nicety. Never mind the fact that the script is formulaic and predictable, and the characters are all selfish and self-serving. Just sit back and enjoy some great acting and smart direction.

Billy Wilder knew exactly how far to stretch this tale of an insurance salesman who fatefully falls for the femme fatale who would spell ruin for him. He knew the strengths and weaknesses, and he let it ride from there.

Fred MacMurray gleefully overplays his stereotype hero guy. He's got the smarts, the looks and he's almost got the dame. As said beauty, Barbara Stanwyck is a must, and few could do this sort of thing better. Cap all this with the dry, witty performance from Edward G. Robinson who lives and breathes insurance claims. He gets all the best lines and devours them.

In a nutshell you have here a must for any 40's film buffs.

Sunday, November 1, 1998 - Astor Theatre
It fits together like a watch
I've now seen this movie 14 times in 25 years, at all times of the year, in all moods, sober or not etc - but always at night. I recorded my copy off TV in 1987 so I can only imagine what a remaster would do for it. With an atmosphere thick enough to cut with a knife it never fails to engross and enchant me, and although it's been dated for 40 years or more still seems relevant and watchable today. TV, answer phones, recordable CD/DVD, memory sticks and the internet have all come between us and yet I can still watch Fred MacMurray speaking into a Dictaphone without a qualm. Who wears a hat in California nowadays? Who buys beer whilst driving! Lift attendants have gone but I can still believe in Charlie working and laughing away in the garage past 11 at night.

Woman and man agree to murder woman's husband but on the way to the cemetery they face grilling by insurance company. I think everything has been said before on the IMDb - by those who think it's one of the best films ever made! To those who simply think the main problem is that it's dated I wish you could see the TV commercials that dug into DI back in '87 - what a hoot - and compare. I've just noticed the print TCM UK is showing in 2005 is lip-synced out, very wobbly Rosza music track, fading and ageing fast - worse than my 1987 video tape (maybe logically). They're supposed to be encouraging people to enjoy the classics but they won't do that with such inferior screening copies. Dear TCM UK, this is an impressive iconic film - it deserves a billion dollar remaster authorised by the Library of Congress, not repeatedly trotting out unimpressive cheap worn dupes to fill those 2 hour slots.

Everything about DI from the acting, production, direction, and music is superbly dignified and is as "close to perfection" as human beings are probably allowed to get with this form of Art - especially with the more limited technology at their disposal in '44. When most films from now are long forgotten and dated DI will still be getting re-runs on TV and art-house cinemas - God and remasters willing - that is the fact of it.

Fortunia Bonanova certainly was fortunate to have appeared in bit parts in 2 of the best films ever made - Citizen Kane the other.
An all-time Hollywood classic
This film noir classic may be the best murder mystery of all time in this storied Hollywood genre. Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson are excellent but it is Barbara Stanwyck who really makes the picture come together as a woman without a moral compass. Stanwyck set the standard for tough, calculating, shady women who exploit men without shame or remorse and her masterful manipulation of MacMurray is the movie's central theme. The film's imagery is filled with shadows and low lighting, accompanied by a tense, brooding music score. Stanwyck spins her web of ensnarement like a black widow with her victim seemingly unaware of the danger that enfolds him. MacMurray provides the narrative of the film which is told in flashback and delivers a cryptic account of the events in a confession to a boss who trusted him completely. Robinson is on target as the skeptical and suspicious boss who has a sixth sense about phony insurance claims. A nice supporting cast contributes to this thriller, namely Richard Gaines and Porter Hall.
The Ultimate Film Noir
It's all story. There's not an ounce of superfluous material anywhere in this tightly plotted film classic about a wealthy middle-aged woman named Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and an insurance salesman named Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray). The two of them conspire to kill Dietrichson's heavily insured husband, to cheat the insurance company out of a fortune. "Double Indemnity" is my all-time favorite noir film.

The film's entertainment derives, in part, from the fact that we, as viewers, get to peek into their murderous scheme, and then watch both of them squirm, when their scheme starts to unravel. An undercurrent of paranoia permeates the plot, as the two incessantly look over their shoulders, as it were, to see if anyone has picked up on their plans or actions. And there are plenty of plot twists and turns. The dialogue is brisk, decisive, and memorable. Walter Neff gives one of my favorite lines: "How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?"

The film's excellent structure is organized around Neff's confessional, spoken into a Dictaphone and directed at his insurance company boss, Barton Keyes, played by the inimitable Edward G. Robinson. Much of the story is then told in a series of flashbacks from Neff's POV, as he narrates his liaison with Dietrichson.

The film's terrific B&W cinematography, with its use of lighting texture and shadows, adds to the dark mood, and to an overall feeling of danger and deception. The visuals neatly correspond to the inner lives of the two main characters. The film's direction and casting are perfect. All of the acting is top notch. And the score is edgy, erotic, and at times appropriately menacing.

There are a few minor plot holes. But who cares? The concept, story, characters, structure, and dialogue are so cinematically strong that they overwhelm any slight defects. And with topnotch film direction, casting, acting, cinematography, editing, and score, the result is a powerhouse film that will entertain viewers for at least the next ten thousand years.
Brilliant, Absolutely Brilliant,right to the very end....
If you haven't seen this movie yet, go out and buy it or rent it, you will not be disappointed. If you don't know much about movies and need to learn what movie Buffs consider as some of the best Movie classics of all time, then look no further then these, Double Indemnity,Citizen Kane,Sunset Boulevard,Out of the Past,Criss Cross,The Asphalt Jungle,Vertigo,Witness for the Prosecution,North by Northwest,Gaslight,The Good,the Bad and the Ugly,Cape Fear and All About Eve. Double Indemnity is the King of all 1940's crime melodramas, told in a flashback style. A urban crime dramas in which a greedy, weak man, Fred MacMurry, is seduced and trapped by a cold, evil woman. Phyllis Dietrichson, Barbara Stanwyck, seduces the insurance agent Walter Neff Fred MacMurray into murdering her husband to collect his accident policy. Of course things turn out differently and things are not all as they seem. Chilling ending to an unforgettable movie.
Lies, Deceit, Sex and Murder.....No Not America in 2003, Try 1944 Instead.
Woody Allen once called "Double Indemnity" the finest American movie ever made. That may be going out on a limb a bit, but then again Allen is more than a film-maker. He is a historian, a listener, a writer and a supreme judge of movies. While I am not going to agree that this is the finest movie ever produced in the U.S., I am still going to say that this is easily one of the very best films ever conceived and executed through the history of motion pictures. An insurance man (Fred MacMurray) goes to renew an automobile policy for the ridiculously wealthy Tom Powers. Instead of finding his man though he meets Powers' super-wicked and highly sexual wife (Barbara Stanwyck, in an unforgettable Oscar-nominated part). They flirt immediately. There is something more than friendship there and a crazed affair starts. Stanwyck, a master manipulator tells sob stories to MacMurray about her abusive husband (embellishing quite a bit in the process). MacMurray, only having eyes for Stanwyck, comes up with a plan with her to have Powers killed so they can collect the insurance via the titled policy. Naturally though Stanwyck does not think near as much of the relationship as MacMurray does and the duo must constantly dodge pesky insurance investigator Edward G. Robinson (in one of his finer roles) and Stanwyck's suspicious step-daughter (Jean Heather). All told through intense flashbacks by MacMurray, "Double Indemnity" is quite possibly co-writer/director (Oscar-nominated in both categories) Billy Wilder's finest contribution to the cinema. As time passes, many film scholars confuse this as one of Alfred Hitchcock's productions. Looking back, this is a very odd movie for Wilder (considering latter triumphs with movies like "Sunset Boulevard", "Stalag 17", "Some Like It Hot" and "The Apartment"). However Wilder would continue a similar trend immediately following this in 1945 with the Best Picture Oscar-winning "The Lost Weekend", an intense character-study of one man's (Ray Milland) bout with alcoholism. "Double Indemnity" has nothing wrong with it. I cannot think of one negative throughout the film. I never found Stanwyck very attractive, but she has a way about her that makes her deceptively sexy here. MacMurray, one of those actors who never got any credit, does probably his best work ever in this one and Robinson is his usual dominant, scene-stealing self. Wickedly brilliant, fun to watch, dramatic, darkly comical, superbly written and flawlessly directed, "Double Indemnity" is one of those movies that should be embraced by all fans of the national and international cinema. 5 stars out of 5.
"Double Indemnity" has all the makings of a great film
There are many ideas out there on what constitutes a great film. Many would say a great film—in other words, art—is not necessarily an entertainment piece, but a movie which makes comments about life and pushes the audience to do some thinking even when the screening has ended. Personally, I've never stood with the idea that all great films are merely absorbing and never entertaining. That silly idea that films are intellectual stimulants and movies are just trash pumped up in a way that comes across as giddy. Although I do agree that many great films probe the audience to think, one of my solutions is this: when I finish the screening, I sit there afterward and tell myself that there was nothing else I would have rather done in those two hours. That sensation swelled me when I finished watching "Double Indemnity" for the first time about a year ago, and it has returned with me every time I have seen it since.

This marvelous film-noir, directed by Billy Wilder, shoves a dagger into the idea that art cannot be entertaining, only observable. Now "Double Indemnity" does not make its central plot—a salesman co-opting with an unhappy housewife to murder her husband for a $100,000 insurance clause—into something exciting—something people might want to try out at home. In fact, as the movie progresses toward its third act and the two murderers start to lose their grip on what's happening, it poignantly resolves the seemingly tired idea that crime doesn't pay. But there is a certain level of joy to be had from this film. Most of it comes from the brilliant performance of Edward G. Robinson as a comically brilliant claims manager on to the big scheme, and the rest of it comes from the way director Billy Wilder brings tremendous energy out of a leisurely paced story.

As much as I've enjoyed his lighthearted performances, I had always felt that Fred MacMurray was capable of putting darker edges on himself. "Double Indemnity" does not give him the coldblooded meanness I always felt he could play effectively, but it brings him somewhat close to that level. A man who is more clever and intelligent than he appears (not just a dumb salesman, although he does allow femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck to manipulate him), not afraid to undergo any task he puts before himself. But what is also brilliant about MacMurray's performance is the way he gets us the care. That is tricky. The character is a murderer; he planned it out; he arranged it. The movie does not condone his crime, even though his victim is hardly the world's nicest guy. And yet the audience follows MacMurray's story with a certain affection for him, and by the end, much to our shock, we actually sort of wish that he might be allowed to dodge the authorities. Or at least escape the gas chamber. The screenplay by Billy Wilder and novelist Raymond Chandler provides the motivation, the dialogue, and the drama, but MacMurray rounds it off with an easygoing, effortless shine of a performance. I do not know of Fred MacMurray was the sort of actor who took methods and concentration to a deep level, but he was one of those talents who made good acting look easy.

I give MacMurray special attention, for I feel even the film's greatest admirers have more or less taken his work for granted. I do not by any mean wish to demean Barbara Stanywck's performance. She, too, is excellent. I'll go even further and say this is one of the best villains ever put on-screen. At one point, she looks up at MacMurray, we see the white in her eyes as she smiles, and shivers always run down my spine. I do not begrudge her, it is just that everybody mentions her character first of all when discussing the acting of "Double Indemnity." The movie's got three great performances, and the third goes to Edward G. Robinson, once again, as that eccentric claims manager. Robinson provides most of the movie's bits of comic relief, such as when he stands up to his own boss during a claims dispute, sides with the victim, and goes on a rant about "six volumes of suicide" and "suicide by poisons, subdivided by types of poison" and so forth. Robinson is the straight-shooter of the story, and his dynamic with the MacMurray character is a very fascinating sort of friendship. MacMurray even says "I love you, too." Today, we might take that as some sort of homoerotic subtext. Ignoring the fact that that was utterly forbidden in 1944 films, "Double Indemnity" plays it as a strong friendship. So as the movie progresses, the audience again starts to feel empathy, this time for how Robinson might react when he finds out his best salesman is a murderer.

"Double Indemnity" has all the makings of a great film. The photography is rich and wonderful (the Venetian blinds are used at their ultimate here), and Miklos Rozsa's string-dominate music score is more than something that just plays in the background like an out-of-tune jukebox. The film has a snappy motif theme that repeats at just the right moments and never wears out its welcome. And Billy Wilder, the director, always finds the right decisions on how to shoot a scene and when. When to keep his camera locked for a long stretch of time and when to cut away. The screenplay sure paces itself well, but Wilder was the one who had to figure out how to keep things interesting. And he did with flying colors.

Here is another test for a great film. Watching a movie that you know is great with friends or relatives, and not only relishing in the fact that you love the movie, but when you can tell your associates are loving it too.
A film noir masterpiece.
Walter Neff arrives at the home of The Dietrichson family, to sell insurance. While the husband absent he gets acquainted with Lola, the unhappily married second wife of Dietrichson. Being an insurance Salesman Neff knows the ins and outs, in particular how to commit the perfect murder. The pair hatch a plan, but Neff's colleague Barton Keyes starts to unravel the complex plan Walter and Lola concocted.

I love the film noir genre, there were some superb offerings, there's a strong case for naming Double Indemnity as the best of the lot. Firstly the story itself, so wonderfully complex, loaded with twists and turns. Secondly the acting, so strong, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are superb as the film's leads. I particularly love the way that Walter narrates the story, an original format, getting it from his point of view.

First time viewers are in for a treat, and will have zero idea of what the conclusion will be. Even now it looks so slick, excellent production values throughout, quite simply this film is exceptional. 10/10
The definitive Film Noir.
Double Indemnity is a film which fully embodies its genre, all the classic noir elements are present: venetian blinds, diagonal lines, a femme fatale and a victim of fate.

Fred MacMurray takes the central role as victim of fate, Walter Neff; cast against type, MacMurray gives a thoroughly convincing performance as a typical insurance salesman transformed into a calculating killer.

The estimable Barbara Stanwyck also delivers a typically faultless performance as the coldhearted and seductive Phyllis Dietrichson who enlists Neff in a plot to kill her husband and cash in on the insurance money.

Although this film may seem clichéd today, as many thrillers since have offered similar plot lines, rarely has the story been told so well. For fans of Film Noir, Stanwyck or MacMurray, this is an absolute MUST SEE!
Didn't Get The Money. Didn't Get The Girl.
*Possible Spoilers!*

Released in 1944 - Double Indemnity's story of vicious betrayal may be somewhat flawed and inconsistent - And, its 3 principal actors may have been miscast (especially Barbara Stanwyck as the deceitfully wicked femme fatale in a really cheap-looking wig) - But, overall, it's quite easy to see why this vintage, Hollywood Crime/Drama is considered to be a true "classic" of 1940s Film Noir.

Containing plenty of loaded dialog, shadowy settings and frequent flashes of well-timed tension, Double Indemnity's story of murder and deception comes together quite nicely like that of a master jigsaw puzzle where all of the scattered pieces of its plot-line eventually become one.

Even though I view Double Indemnity as essentially a "Chick Flick", its story is told (chiefly in long flashbacks) by a man who was directly involved in this double-crossing crime-of-passion that went seriously haywire.

Fred MacMurray plays Walter Neff, an over-confident, yet naively gullible insurance salesman, who, thinking that he's got it all figured out, gets played for an all-time sucker when the seductive, well-to-do Mrs. Dietrichson snares him into a diabolical plot to kill her husband in order to collect $100,000 through the double indemnity clause in his life insurance policy.

Needless to say, once Neff gets himself completely tangled up in a web of establishing alibis (while setting the wheels of the "perfect" crime into motion), things literally begin to come apart at the seams once he inadvertently learns about the treacherous activities (both past and present) of the calculating and conniving Mrs. Dietrichson.

Filmed in glossy b&w, Double Indemnity's story was co-written by the famed crime-novelist, Raymond Chandler. It was directed by Billy Wilder, known for such other notable films as - Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, The Seven Year Itch, and Some Like It Hot.
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